Sunday, July 31, 2016

Card Of The Week July 31

I ordered a book off of Amazon Japan a while back called something like "Nostalgic Stadiums Of Kansai".  It's a mostly picture book showing vintage photos of the various former (and one current) ballparks in the Kansai area - Koshien Stadium, Hankyu Nishinomiya Stadium, Fujiidera Stadium, Nippon Life Stadium and Osaka Stadium.  As I was thumbing through the book, I noticed some interesting photos of Fujiidera Stadium with what looked like half finished light towers - what was interesting was that the photos of the half finished light towers were from a time period between 1974 and 1983.  What could possibly have taken them so long to complete the light towers?

I did a little research on the Japanese wikipedia page for the stadium and got my answer.  To fully explain it though, I need to give a little background about the home stadiums of the Kintetsu Buffaloes.  I've been confused for a while about what stadium actually was the home of the Buffaloes up until the late 1980's as I had seen things that indicated both Fujiidera and Nippon Life Stadiums were the Buffaloes home park.  It turns out that they both were.  They apparently used Nippon Life Stadium during the week as it only sat around 20,000 fans and used Fujiidera Stadium on weekends and holidays as it sat 30,000 fans.  Kintetsu decided to renovate the stadium in 1973 to add more seating to the outfield and to add lights.  The people living around the ballpark, however, were concerned about the light and noise that having night games at the stadium would cause and went to court to prevent the team from adding the lights.  The case took 10 years to get resolved in Kintetsu's favor and Fujiidera Stadium hosted its first night game in April of 1984.  I'm not positive but I think they stopped playing weekday games at Nippon Life Stadium after that.

Here's some photos I scanned from the book.  First here's a shot showing the ballpark right before the renovations in 1973:

I think this is a protest by the local residents:

Here's the light-less light towers:

The lack of lights had forced the Buffaloes to host their Nippon Series games in 1979 and 1980 in nearby Osaka Stadium but now that they had lights, they were able to play at Fujiidera Stadium when they reached the Series again in 1989.

Here's what the ballpark looked like in 1991, just a few years before the Buffaloes would move to the Osaka Dome in 1996:

1992 BBM #109

Monday, July 25, 2016

New Stuff

There's several new sets coming out in the next month or so that I haven't had a chance to write about yet so let's get caught up:

- The final BBM pack based team set for the year will be out on Wednesday of this week (the 27th).  It's for the Chunichi Dragons and like all the team sets this year, it features 81 cards in its base set.  There'll be 70 cards for the manager and players along with subsets for "Season Highlights" (5 cards), "Key Players" (3 cards) and "Dependable Veterans" (3 cards).  There will also be 18 insert cards split between four different sets - "Fresh Stars" (3 cards), "Winning Formula" (3 cards), "Score Source" (3 cards) and "Enter The Dragon" (9 cards).  There will also be autographed cards available as inserts.

- BBM's second flagship set - 2nd Version - will be released in mid-August.  This year's set will pretty much be a carbon copy of last year's set, at least in number of cards.  There'll be 216 regular player cards (18 per team) along with three subsets - a 36 card "1st Version Update" (3 per team), 12 team checklists and 36 more of the "Cross Freeze" cross set subset (3 per team).  BBM is also including the usual "Ceremonial First Pitch" cards with the usual vagueness of how many there will be.  There's a 12 card insert set ("One and Only") and autograph and memorabilia cards - I think the memorabilia cards are jersey cards for Shun Takayama and Louis Okoye (including a card with both of them) but I'm not positive that there aren't others available as well.  It looks like for the first time there will be autographed versions of the "Ceremonial First Pitch" cards available as well.  There's also the usual plethora of parallel versions that are too numerous to mention right now.

- BBM will be releasing the latest of their "Autographed Edition" box sets in mid-August.  The first is for the Lions and is entitled "King Of Beast" while the other is for the Tigers and is called "Jet-Black Tiger".  Both box sets will come with 29 cards in the box - 27 base set cards and two special cards.  The Lions set will have an autographed card and a "luxury insert card of foil autographed using a hologram paper" called "SPARK" while the Tigers set will have two autographed cards - including ones that may have more than one signature on them.

- Sports Graphic Number is releasing a set in September called "15 Hiroki Kuroda x 25 Takahiro Arai".  This is a pack based set featuring (as you might guess) Carp players Hiroki Kuroda and Takahiro Arai.  There will be 72 cards in the base set (36 for each player) as well as a bunch of insert, photo, autograph and memorabilia cards.

- I hadn't noticed this until today but Jambalaya has a listing for a Baystars team issued set featuring at least 25 3D cards.  There's at least two premium cards as well.  That's pretty much all I know about the set - I'm not even sure when it was released.

2016 BBM Fighters Autographed Edition "Opening" set

BBM has been issuing a number of "Autographed Edition" box sets over the past few years.  Each of these is dedicated to a single team and typically feature 27 players from the team - usually including the manager.  Each of the cards in the set feature a facsimile autograph of the player and there's one or two "special" cards included in the box - a parallel version of a card and/or an actual autograph from one of the players.

I typically don't get these - not that there's anything actually wrong with them but I generally would prefer to pick up the pack based team sets and get pretty much all the players for the team, nit just a subset (since generally I'll get that subset in the 1st and 2nd Version sets as well as Calbee).  So I wasn't planning on getting this year's Fighers set (called "Opening") but for whatever reason the seller on Yahoo! Japan Auctions that I get my Classic set from included the 27 card base set in the box with it.

It's not an unattractive set.  The cards feature the players on a blue-ish background with a gold facsimile signature.  Here's some example cards:




I'm kind of amused that all the players in the set are wearing the Fighter's home jersey EXCEPT Yuki Saitoh, who's wearing the gold away jersey.  It's been a while since Saitoh's been considered any type of golden player for the Fighters...

The set contains pretty much who you'd expect - Shohei Ohtani, Sho Nataka, Brandon Laird, Daikan Yoh, Kohei Arihara, Kensuke Tanaka, Shoto Ohno and Luis Mendoza to name a few.  The biggest players I see missing are the two new foreign pitchers - Anthony Bass and Chris Martin.  Since the set was released in March I figure most of the photos were taken either last year or at some sort of training in Japan over the winter to get the rookies in the set (Takayuki Katoh and Kenta Uehara) so they probably didn't have a chance to get pictures of Bass and Martin.

You can see all the cards at Jambalaya.

It was a nice surprise to get the set (free is always good) but I still don't have a great urge to run out and get any of these box sets.  But they are nice looking.  I'm sure they're even nicer (although much more expensive) when they include the autographed card.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Card Of The Week July 24

Yoshitomo Tsutsugoh had a pretty good week last week.  On Tuesday he hit two solo home runs against the Swallows, the second one accounting for the winning run in the top of the ninth in the Baystars 9-8 win.  On Wednesday he again hit two home runs, a solo and a two run shot.  The first of the two put the Baystars ahead for good against the Swallows in a game they eventually won 9-2.  After an off day on Thursday, he was back at it again on Friday against the Giants.  He had a solo shot in the sixth and then the game winning solo shot in the bottom of the twelfth.  Here's the video of the at bat for his last home run (H/T NPB Reddit):

Tsutsugoh is the first player in NPB history to record three straight multi-home run games.  Here's his card from the 2013 Front Runner Trading Cards (Frontier International) Baystars Rookies & Young Stars set (#05):

Saturday, July 23, 2016

2016 BBM Classic

This year's edition of BBM's Classic set (the fourth edition overall) was released just over two weeks ago.  Classic is BBM's version of the Topps Heritage and Archives sets - it contains cards of current players using an older (i.e. "classic") card design.

There's actually two parts to the set - the current players and the OB players.  There are 72 current players in the set (six per team).  All of their cards use BBM's set design from 1994 (last year it was 1993, the year before was 1992, etc).  There are 36 OB players in the set (3 per team).  Their cards use the card design from BBM's All Time Heroes set from 2002.

Here's a sample card from the 1994 set and one from this set (there are two guys from the 1994 set who are still active in NPB - Kazuya Fukuura and Kazuo Matsui,  Only Kukuura is in the set)

1994 BBM #529

2016 BBM Classic #017

1994 BBM #529 Back

2016 BBM Classic #017 Back
Once again they've matched the original design pretty well.  (You might point out that the colors don't match but they are the team's colors and the Marines' colors have changed in the past 22 years.)  As with the previous three years, the biggest difference in the card design is that the new cards are the standard size (2 1/2 inches by 3 1/2 inches) while the 1994 cards were a little smaller.  This will be the last time that this difference occurs as the 1995 cards were standard size.

The checklist for the current players contains pretty much the top stars that you'd expect - Shohei Ohtani, Yuki Yanagita, Tetsuto Yamada, Shintaro Fujinami, Shogo Akiyama, Takeya Nakamura, Seiichi Uchiyama, Hideaki Wakui, Hayato Sakamoto, Yasuaki Yamasaki and Yuki Matsui are all in the set.  There's a number of rookies - Shun Takayama and Louis Okoye probably being the biggest two - and their cards are denoted by the same "Rookie" symbol that the 1994 rookie cards had (as seen on the Fukuura card above).

The photography is...ok.  While each individual photo is attractive, I have my usual complaint about the lack of interesting photos in BBM's recent sets.  Once again, most of the photos are simply of pitchers pitching and batters batting.  I think there's only one card in the set showing a current player fielding.  Here's some examples:






BBM used a new design for the OB cards in the last two editions of this set but this year's set uses the design of the 2002 All Time Heroes set (which is the design that the OB cards in the first Classic set in 2013 used).  As usual, I can find no rhyme or reason why any of the OB players were chosen for the set.  There's a couple older (50's to 70's era) players - Yoshio Yoshida, Keishi Suzuki and Hiromitsu Kadota - and several who retired last year - Michihiro Ogasawara, Masahiro Yamamoto, Kazuhiro Wada, Satoshi Nagai, Teppei Tsuchiya.  The bulk of the rest of the players are from the 80's through the 00's.  There's also a card of last year's Eagles manager Hiromoto Ohkubo as manager rather than as a player.  There are no OB players from Orix or Hankyu - instead there are three Kintetsu players.

Here's a comparison between Yoshida's actual 2002 All Time Heroes card and his card from this set:

2002 BBM All Time Heroes #096

2016 BBM Classic #098

2002 BBM All Time Heroes #096 Back

2016 BBM Classic #098 Back
So again BBM did a great job matching the original design.  Here's a couple more of the OB cards:



You can see all the cards here at Jambalaya.

I pretty much feel the same way about this set as I've felt about the other three - it's a nice idea that BBM doesn't execute very well other than the cards for the current players.  I'd prefer a larger set or at least replacing the OB players with additional current players.  It'd also be a little more interesting to do the OB players in the same format as the current players - kind of like what Topps Archives does.  Having some subsets that harken back to the original set would be nice as well - the 1994 set had some multi-player cards that BBM could have emulated for this set.  But it looks like BBM isn't planning on changing the format of this set so we can look forward to another round next year using the 1995 design.

Hiroki Kuroda

Hiroki Kuroda joined the Meikyukai today by getting his 200th career victory (121 in NPB and 79 in MLB) by defeating the Tigers 7-0 today.  Kuroda was originally drafted by the Carp in the second round of the fall 1996 draft.  He remained with the Carp for 11 seasons until leaving for MLB (and the Dodgers) after the 2007 season.  After seven seasons in MLB (4 with the Dodgers and 3 with the Yankees) he returned to the Carp last season.

I did a post on Kuroda back in 2007 when he left NPB for the Dodgers so I'll just share a couple more now:

2011 BBM Tohto 80th Memorial #45

1997 BBM #496

1999 BBM #119

2001 Upper Deck #39

2003 BBM Japan National Team #07

2005 Calbee #147

2007 BBM All Stars #A37

2015 BBM Carp #C71

Friday, July 22, 2016

2016 Calbee Series Two

The latest Calbee release (and the second Series for the season) was released a couple weeks ago and I got my copy in the mail the other day.  I'd mentioned in my write-up for Series One that it was the smallest Calbee Series set in recent memory - at 88 cards the new Series is actually six cards smaller.

Like Series One, Series Two features 72 "regular" player cards (split evenly among the 12 teams so there's six cards per team).  Unlike Series One, which had a checklist largely bereft of the top players from NPB, this set is chock full of stars.  Shohei Ohtani, Yuki Yanagita, Tetsuto Yamada, Shogo Akiyama, Hayato Sakamoto, Shintaro Fujinami and Yasuaki Yamasaki are all in the set.  The set also features a number of rookies including Eigoro Mogi of the Eagles and Juri Hara of the Swallows.  It doesn't look like there's any duplication in the player cards with the ones in Series One.

Following this year's format established in Series One, there's no English on the cards - the player's names are only in kanji.  Following the tradition of Calbee cards, the photography is outstanding:

#073 Nobuhiro Matsuda

#082 Shohei Ohtani

#086 Takashi Ogino

#103 Yuki Matsui

#109 Tetsuto Yamada

#128 Yoshihiro Maru

#141 Yasutaka Tobashira
The remaining cards in the set are in two subsets (or non-premium insert sets).  The first one is a 12 card subset entitled "First Win" that celebrates the first win for each team this year.  Most (nine of them) feature the starting pitcher for the winning team - Shota Takeda, Kohei Arihara, Hideaki Wakui, Brandon Dickson, Takahiro Norimoto, Yoshihisa Naruse, Hiroki Kuroda, Yudai Ohno and Shoichi Inoh.  The exceptions are the Lions card which has Ernesto Mejia who had the game winning hit and the cards for the Giants and Tigers which feature their managers (Yoshinobu Takahashi and Tomoaki Kanemoto) who were getting their first wins.  These cards also do not have any English on them:

#FW-09 Tomoaki Kanemoto
The other subset is the standard four card Checklist subset (numbered C-5 to C-8).  These cards feature events from the first week of the season - Seiya "Aja" Inoue of the Marines on 3/25, Shun Takayama of the Tigers on 3/26, Ernesto Mejia of the Lions on 3/25 and Hiroki Yokoyama of the Carp on 3/30.  All but the last one are scenes from the respective team's card from the "First Win" subset and obviously Mejia is featured in both subsets (these don't have any English on them either but that's not unusual):

All the cards can be seen at Jambalaya (as usual).

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

White Whale Finally Defeated

Well, it took almost 16 years but I was able to finally defeat my white whale - the 2000 BBM 20th Century Best 9 set.  While I had finished the base set almost two years ago, there was one final insert card that had eluded me until recently.  I finally got it off of Yahoo! Japan Auctions almost two months ago and it was delivered today with a couple other items in a shipment from the auction proxy company.

So here's the last card I needed - from "The Scene" insert set that commemorated famous moments in NPB history.  This shows Sadaharu Oh hitting his 756th home run to pass Henry Aaron:

2000 BBM 20th Century Best 9 "The Scene" #S-04
I kind of feel like Oh must of in this picture.  And it almost took me as long to get all the cards in this set as it did for him to hit all those home runs!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Hideki Okajima

Hideki Okajima announced his retirement today.  He was originally drafted out of high school by the Yomiuri Giants in the third round of the fall 1993 draft  and debuted with them in 1995.  He was a starter for his first couple seasons but by 1999 he had moved into the middle relief role that he excelled in for the bulk of his career.  He was traded to the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters in March of 2006 for Kazunari Sanematsu and Shigeyuki Furuki.  After one season with the Fighters, he left Japan for MLB, signing a two year deal with the Boston Red Sox.  He ended up staying with the Red Sox until the end of the 2011 season,  He briefly signed with the Yankees for 2012 but after he failed his physical, he was released.  He returned to Japan and signed with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks.  Following the 2012 season he returned to the US and signed with the Oakland Athletics.  He split the season between Oakland and their AAA team in Sacramento.  He went back to Japan and the Hawks for the 2014 season then spent 2015 with the Yokohama DeNA Baystars.  He attempted to return to the US for the 2016 season by going to spring training with the Baltimore Orioles but he was released just before the season started (ironically his photo on his Baseball-Reference profile is his head shot from the Orioles).

He was a four time All Star - three times in NPB (2000-02) and one time in MLB (2007).  He was a five time champion - four Nippon Series championships (2000, 2002, 2006 and 2014) and one World Series championship (2007).  I believe he has the only five time winner of any player who has won championships in both NPB and MLB.

His first baseball card was #483 from the 1994 BBM set.  His first Calbee card was not until the 1997 set (#222).

1994 BBM #483

2000 BBM Nippon Series #S7

2002 BBM All Stars #A36

2006 BBM 2nd Version #511

2012 Calbee #151

2015 BBM 1st Version #275
One side note - Okajima spent the winter of 1996-97 pitching in the Hawaiian Winter League with the Honolulu Sharks.  He made the team's baseball card set:

1996 HWL Honolulu Sharks Team Set #8